Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) introduced a bill on Tuesday that would modernize the hemp industry, develop specific guidelines and encourage federal research into a wide-range of potential applications for the crop.
Among other areas of investigation, it would mandate research into everything from the use of hemp food products for public school lunches to the potential therapeutic value of the crop’s extracts for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to even its ability to clear contaminants from nuclear sites.
The legislation, titled the “Hemp for Victory Act,” also focuses on research into the plant as an alternative to plastics and its ability to prevent soil erosion. And it would establish grant programs to develop studies on hemp’s potential as a domestic agricultural commodity and to create tools to protect farms growing it.
While the 2018 Farm Bill federally legalized hemp and its derivatives, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are actively developing regulations for the crop. USDA rules are expected to be released ahead of the 2020 planting season, and FDA has indicated that regulations providing for the lawful marketing of hemp as food items or dietary supplements may take years without congressional action.
Gabbard’s proposal goes far beyond simply developing baseline regulations to cultivate, process and sell hemp products, though. Here’s what the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate’s legislation entails for each federal department, according to a summary of the 24-page bill circulated by her office:
U.S. Department of Agriculture
—Establish a grant program for universities to “conduct research on establishing hemp as a domestic agricultural commodity.”
—Study the nutritional value of hemp foods, drinks and supplement products.
—Study whether such hemp products could be used as “low-cost healthy alternatives” for public school lunches for low-income students.
—Research whether items being used by the federal government its contractors could be substituted by hemp-based products.
—Study the potential of hemp “for soil erosion control and as a windscreen.”
—Create guidance for cultivating organic hemp.
—Designate hemp as a “high priority research” crop eligible for grants that would be used to “develop and disseminate science-based tools and treatments to combat noxious species that impact hemp farms, and to establish and areawide integrated pest management program.”
—Research the economics of the international hemp market.
—Study the “use and presence of agricultural chemicals and pathogens” in hemp to inform public safety standards.
—Make hemp available for grants to conduct research “on the cultivation of hemp as a commodity, including production guidance for underserved and rural communities and technical assistance for available grants.”
—Integrate hemp into market research publications.
—Study how to create “buffer zones” between marijuana and hemp farms to avoid cross-pollination.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
—Study the “presence of pathogens in hemp-based and hemp-blended products and their impact on the health and safety of consumers.”
—Study whether hemp can be used as a substitute for health care industry products used to deliver, create, store or administer prescription drugs.
Small Business Administration
—Develop guidance manuals for individuals interested in creating a small business, “which will focus on Native Hawaiians, Indian Tribes and veterans.”
U.S. Department of Defense
—Study what items used by the DOD could be substituted with hemp.
—Study the impact of using hemp and derivatives such as CBD “on military preparedness.”
—Study the use of hemp as an “alternative to current health supplements with regard to the armed forces deployed in support of contingency operations, and its effect on preparedness, physical and mental health, and safety,” which includes active and non-active service members diagnosed with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.
—Study hemp’s potential to “clear contaminants from nuclear sites and heavy metal contamination.”
U.S. Department of Labor
—Issue a report on the application of federal laws in states with hemp programs to “ensure the health and safety of individuals working in the hemp industry.”
—Issue a report on the application of federal laws in states with hemp programs to “ensure fair, equitable and proper treatment of individuals working in the hemp industry.”
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
—Study how the cultivation of hemp can assist in weed control, reducing ecological damage, detoxifying carbon dioxide and preventing soil erosion.
—Study how hemp can be used to “clear impurities in water, wastewater, sewage effluent and post-disaster relief due to flooding or animal waste.”
—Study whether hemp could be used as a substitute for certain plastics and also research whether such a substitute could reduce “landfill waste and ocean pollution.”
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
—Study the “the use of hempcrete for affordable and sustainable housing.”
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
—Study the potential benefits of hemp in the treatment of conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, depression and anxiety among veterans.
Gabbard has been a long-standing advocate for cannabis. She filed a bipartisan bill in March that would federally deschedule marijuana, and she repeatedly spoke in favor of legalizing hemp prior to the passage of the Farm Bill.
The congresswoman spoke during her presidential campaign launch speech about how the criminal justice system “puts people in prison for smoking marijuana while allowing corporations like Purdue Pharma, who are responsible for the opioid-related deaths of thousands of people, to walk away scot-free with their coffers full.”
Read the full text of Gabbard’s hemp bill below:
Gabbar 023 XML by on Scribd
Photo element courtesy of Lorie Shaull.
Marijuana Legalization Measure Advances One Step In South Dakota
South Dakota’s attorney general filed an official explanation of a proposed ballot measure to legalize marijuana on Friday.
While separate organizations are working to get a medical cannabis-focused initiative on the state’s 2020 ballot, activists behind this measure are hoping to incorporate recreational legalization, medical marijuana reform and hemp into one package.
Adult-use legalization would be accomplished through a constitutional amendment under the initiative, which would separately require the legislature to pass legislation creating rules for medical cannabis and hemp.
South Dakota Attorney General releases explanation on proposed constitutional amendment to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana; to require passage of laws regarding hemp as well as laws regarding marijuana for medical use. Read it here: https://t.co/k33buSKjIJ pic.twitter.com/pEG0RxbDj9
— SD Attorney General (@SDAttorneyGen) August 16, 2019
“The constitutional amendment legalizes the possession, use, transport, and distribution of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia by people age 21 and older. Individuals may possess or distribute one ounce or less of marijuana,” Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R) wrote. “Marijuana plants and marijuana produced from those plants may also be possessed under certain conditions.”
The South Dakota Department of Revenue would be responsible for issuing licenses for cannabis cultivators, manufacturers, testing facilities and retailers. Individual jurisdictions would be able to opt out of allowing such facilities in their areas.
“The Department must enact rules to implement and enforce this amendment,” the explanation states. “The amendment requires the Legislature to pass laws regarding medical use of marijuana. The amendment does not legalize hemp; it requires the Legislature to pass laws regulating the cultivation, processing, and sale of hemp.”
The initiative calls for a 15 percent excise tax on marijuana sales. That revenue would be used to fund the Department of Revenue’s implementation and regulation of the legal cannabis system, with remaining tax dollars going toward public education and the state general fund.
Ravnsborg said that judicial clarification of the amendment “may be necessary” and notes that marijuana “remains illegal under Federal law.”
The attorney general issued a similar explanation of a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize medical cannabis earlier this month.
This latest move comes one day after advocacy organization New Approach South Dakota announced that their medical marijuana initiative was certified, enabling them to begin the signature gathering process.
Several other cannabis initiatives are in the process of being certified in the state, according to the attorney general’s website. In order to place constitutional amendments on the ballot, activists must collect 33,921 valid signatures from voters.
South Dakota is one of the last remaining states in the U.S. that has not legalized marijuana for any purposes.
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.
Elizabeth Warren’s Plan For Indian Tribes Includes Marijuana Legalization
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) unveiled a plan on Friday that’s aimed at holding the federal government accountable for following through on its obligations to Native American tribes, and that includes ensuring that tribal marijuana programs are protected against federal intervention.
The plan emphasized Warren’s support for a bill she filed earlier this year that “would protect cannabis laws and policies that tribal nations adopted for themselves.”
The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, who has faced criticism over claims of Native American heritage, pointed to federal reports showing that tribal programs generally have not received adequate funding and said it is imperative that legislation be enacted to “provide resources for housing, education, health care, self-determination, and public safety” for those communities.
To that end, Warren is planning to introduce a bill called the “Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act” alongside Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus. Before filing, however, the lawmakers are soliciting input on how best to draft the legislation, and are accepting written testimony until September 30.
While the proposed legislation itself doesn’t currently include marijuana-specific provisions, a press release and blog post on the topic address the senator’s sponsorship of the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, which would allow tribal communities and states to set their own cannabis policies without Justice Department interference.
In order to provide economic opportunities to Native people, that “requires streamlining and removing unnecessary administrative barriers that impede economic growth on Tribal lands, respecting tribal jurisdiction over tribal businesses, and promoting forward-looking efforts to ensure full access to new and emerging economic opportunities.”
“For example, while not every tribe is interested in the economic opportunities associated with changing laws around marijuana, a number of Tribal Nations view cannabis as an important opportunity for economic development,” Warren’s campaign blog post states.
“I support full marijuana legalization, and have also introduced and worked on a bipartisan basis to advance the STATES Act, a proposal that would at a minimum safeguard the ability of states, territories, and Tribal Nations, to make their own marijuana policies,” she wrote.
.@RepDebHaaland & I invite feedback about this proposal & look forward to working closely with tribal nations & citizens, experts, & other stakeholders to advance legislation in Congress that honors the United States’ promises to Native peoples. https://t.co/qc1fkBGb3I
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) August 16, 2019
A separate press release on Warren’s Senate website also touts her support for the STATES Act, saying she “worked hard to ensure” that it included tribal protections.
“It’s beyond time to make good on America’s responsibilities to Native peoples, and that is why I’m working with Congresswoman Haaland to draft legislation that will ensure the federal government lives up to its obligations and will empower tribal governments to address the needs of their citizens,” Warren said of the overall tribal plan. “We look forward to working closely with tribal nations to advance legislation that honors the United States’ promises to Native peoples.”
In an email blast to her campaign list, Warren included “a set of additional ideas to uphold the federal government’s trust and treaty obligations with Tribal Nations and to empower Native communities,” which includes her marijuana proposal:
“New economic opportunities: We also need to respect tribal jurisdiction over tribal businesses and promote forward-looking efforts to ensure full access to new economic opportunities. For example, a number of Tribal Nations view cannabis as an important economic opportunity. I support full marijuana legalization and have advanced the STATES Act, a proposal that would safeguard the ability of Tribal Nations to make their own marijuana policies.”
There’s increased interest in ensuring that Native populations receive the same benefits and protections as states as it concerns cannabis legislation.
In June, the House passed a spending bill that included a rider stipulating that Native American marijuana programs couldn’t be infringed upon by the Justice Department. And a GOP representative filed a bill in March that would provide similar protections.
FBI Seeks Tips On Marijuana Industry Corruption
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is actively seeking tips on public corruption related to the marijuana industry, it announced on Thursday.
“States require licenses to grow and sell the drug—opening the possibility for public officials to become susceptible to bribes in exchange for those licenses,” FBI Public Affairs Specialist Mollie Halpern said on a short podcast the bureau released. “The corruption is more prevalent in western states where the licensing is decentralized—meaning the level of corruption can span from the highest to the lowest level of public officials.”
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)